Local officials will unveil a new statue in front of the Williamson County Courthouse in honor of members of the U.S. Colored Troops, Black military members who served in the Civil War.
Following protest events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, local leaders—reverends Hewitt Sawyers, Chris Williamson, Kevin Riggs and historian Eric Jacobson—began work with city leaders to add more historic context from the era, especially surrounding existing Confederate monuments. In June 2020, the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans sparked additional conversation about Black representation in the city's history. In that same month, organizers with The Fuller Story and the Battle of Franklin Trust reached their fundraising goal to complete the statue, according to the city of Franklin. Sculptor Joe F. Howard created the statue, entitled "March to Freedom."
In October 2019, the group added historic markers to the Public Square to provide more education about the city's involvement in slavery, the Civil War and the Reconstruction era.
The statue—the last installment from The Fuller Story's plan—will be unveiled in a ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m., according to a release from the city.
“This glorious statue will stand in front of the Historic Courthouse in Franklin where hundreds of escaped slaves in Williamson county and surrounding areas fled to in order to enlist in the Union Army," Williamson said in a release. "This statue represents the 186,000 United States Colored Troops soldiers who courageously fought for this country’s freedom and their own freedom. These Black men are worthy to be honored and celebrated.”